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Birds of a feather

Malaysian artist and bird enthusiast Yeow Teck Chai raises funds for charity causes

20 Nov 2020 / 10:15 H.

MALAYSIAN artist Yeow Teck Chai has released a 240-page coffee table book titled Birds of Malaysia – An Artist’s Love filled with 120 prints of Malaysian birds in their natural habitats painted in the splendour of watercolour.

With every vivid brushstroke, the 70-year-old painter immortalised birds native to Malaysia, including some of the rarest and endemic species to the country; namely the Hornbill, Bee-eater, Pitta and others.

This passion project is very much a delight to fellow feathered fiends, from ornithology experts to casual nature lovers. Ultimately, the artist hopes to create awareness of the need for conserving our unique wildlife and precious ecosystem.

Yeow’s fascination with birds began when he was a boy, often exploring the jungles of pre-urbanised Kuantan in pursuit of lyrical chirping birds. The same interest has, later in life, intertwined with his love for watercolour paintings, leading him on a journey to paint but a fraction of the thousands of birds species in Malaysia.

Birds of Malaysia. – COURTESY OF YEOW TECK CHAI
Birds of Malaysia. – COURTESY OF YEOW TECK CHAI

Yeow wrote in his book: “Having discovered the talented photography works of our local birdwatchers has further inspired me to translate them into art. The bird portraits shot in the wild by Dr Samuel Ong and Francis Chin were irresistible, and it is a privilege to have been allowed these private camera freezes as muses for my paintings.

“2020 is a very personal year for me as I turn 70 and reflect on my life. My journey into the world of watercolour has emerged in my autumn years and as a token of my gratitude for a long life well-lived, I decided to take on yet another art project (following my last two exhibitions in 2018 and 2019) to again raise funds for the less fortunate in our society. Thus the idea for the production of this book transpired.”

With his book, Yeow pledges 80% of the book sales to be donated to two charities that he has long supported – The Society for the Severely Mentally Handicapped (SSMH), and Persatuan SLE Malaysia (PSLEM) which provides counselling and financial aid for people who live with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus autoimmune disease.

In 2006, Yeow retired from the civil service after an illustrious 32 years with the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) and founded YTC Resources, a government relation consulting agency in the same year.

As a cancer survivor since 2004, Yeow believes in utilising this new lease of life to give back to society by using his talents.

It was only in the last seven years that he started painting on a larger scale, in which he pushed himself to paint and subsequently held his debut exhibition at the age of 68 to raise funds for charity.

The anthology of watercolour art, Birds of Malaysia – An Artist’s Love retails at RM200 per copy.

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